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White Sox lock up Jones with 3-year contract

Reliever has posted 3.52 ERA over 156 career appearances

CHICAGO -- A healthy Nate Jones most likely would have been the White Sox closer coming out of Spring Training 2014. But the hard-throwing right-hander was not at full strength.

He endured a microdiscectomy to alleviate back issues and then Tommy John surgery as he was working his way back from the back procedure, keeping him off the mound from April 3, 2014, to Aug. 7 of this past season. So it had to be a bit surreal but extremely rewarding for Jones to talk Friday about a three-year, $8 million contract extension, which includes two club options and a mutual option, after the long road traveled.

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"Exciting stuff, no doubt," Jones said on a conference call. "I definitely feel blessed, that's for sure. It was a long road, the rehab was. It went into 2015 as well. But this definitely made it worth it. That's for sure.

"I'm glad they think of me that way, enough of me to offer me this. I want to be [with the] White Sox for a long time. They are doing things right and building their team to win. I want to be a part of that winning."

Jones will earn $900,000 in 2016, $1.9 million in '17 and $3.95 million in '18. The White Sox hold club options for '19 ($4.65 million) and '20 ($5.15 million), with a mutual option for '21 ($6 million). If either club option is declined, Jones would receive a $1.25 million buyout.

If Jones were to need a second Tommy John surgery between 2016-18, which the White Sox believe is unlikely to occur, the mutual option for 2021 would change to a third club option. The salary values of the club options would change as well. The salary numbers for 2016-18 are set and would remain unchanged.

In a manner befitting of Jones' good nature, the 29-year-old thanked the pitching coaches, the athletic trainers and the strength and conditioning coaches who helped his rehab. He also thanked the White Sox for standing with him, buying out his last two years of arbitration and at least one year of free agency.

"They very well could have gave up on me at any point. But they didn't," Jones said. "They stuck with me and they saw enough of results from last year when I came back and they like what they saw. They know what kind of work ethic I have and they know I'm going to give it everything I got all the time."

After his August return, Jones went 2-2 with a 3.32 ERA over 19 innings. He finished with six holds and 27 strikeouts in 19 relief appearances, averaging 12.8 strikeouts per nine innings with a 4.5 strikeout-to-walk ratio while holding opponents to a .188 average.

There were tweaks made with his mechanics, cleaning up his line toward home plate, having him work from back to front instead of side to side. The change helped Jones reset after the injury and eventually cement his status as "a key component" at the back end of the bullpen, per general manager Rick Hahn in the team release announcing the deal.

"Our whole county, they're like 'Oh, Merry Christmas to you,'" Jones said. "Everybody is excited and we're all excited."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for Read his blog, Merk's Works, follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin, on Facebook and listen to his podcast.
Read More: Chicago White Sox, Nate Jones